Despite continued warnings that the overuse of antibiotics is enabling so-called superbugs -- infectious diseases resistant to drugs -- physicians continue to prescribe children and teenagers antibiotics about twice as often as necessary. That according to a new study by researchers with the CDC and the Seattle Children's Hospital.
According to the new study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, roughly two-thirds of all flu- or cold-like symptoms -- whether a bad cough, an earache, or a sore throat -- are caused by viral infections. Viral infections won't respond to antibiotics. Yet antibiotics are prescribed some 57 percent of the time. That means at least 11 million antibiotic prescriptions are given to children unnecessarily.
Researchers say that's a serious problem. The more antibiotics that are put out into the world, the more opportunities harmful bacteria has to develop defenses to these drugs.
"During the last 70 years, bacteria have shown the ability to become resistant to every antibiotic that has been developed," Dr. Steve Solomon, director of the CDC's Office of Antimicrobial Resistance, recently told Medical News Today. "And the more antibiotics are used, the more quickly bacteria develop resistance. The use of antibiotics at any time in any setting puts biological pressure on bacteria that promotes the development of resistance."
According to the CDC, antibiotic-resistant infections sicken some two million Americans and kill 23,000 every year.
Researchers say doctors need to be more precise in their prescriptions and exercise patience and caution when considering the necessity of antibiotic prescriptions. The study offered some figures on which types of infections are more likely to be bacterial than viral, information that could help doctors make more informed decisions on when and when not to prescribe antibiotics.